Hard or easy? Which way do you like to do things? When it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey, you might be looking for the easiest way to get it done, or you might want to give yourself a little challenge. No matter what you choose, foodsafety.gov has you covered! From roasting, to grilling, to frying, they’ll explain how to do it properly. Read on to learn about different methods and choose what works best for you.
Easy Cooking Methods
- Traditional Roasting – Put your turkey into a roasting pan, set the oven to 325 degrees, and check back in a couple of hours. Stick a food thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast. When the thermometer says 165 degrees, the turkey is ready. If you need to learn how to use a food thermometer correctly, click here, or watch the video below. For a chart with approximate cooking times, click here.
- Traditional Stuffed Roasting – With a little more work, you can add stuffing to your turkey. Prepare your stuffing first. When you’re ready to cook your turkey, use the prepared stuffing to stuff the turkey. When the turkey is cooked and the food thermometer reads 165 degrees, remove the stuffing. Place it in a serving dish and cover to keep it warm. Let the turkey stand for 15-20 minutes before carving.
- Oven Bag Roasting – Using an oven bag will speed up the cooking time for your turkey. It also makes for easier clean up. Roasting bags come with directions on the box. Follow those directions, adding 30 minutes if you choose to stuff your turkey. The same rule applies, your turkey is ready when the food thermometer reads 165 degrees.
Moderate Cooking Methods
- Grilling – If you are short on oven space, cooking the turkey outside might be a good option for you. Grilling is when you cook food on a rack over direct heat. The heat comes from charcoal, wood, or special rocks heated by gas flame. When cooking a turkey this way, add 15-18 minutes cooking time per pound. If it’s cold outside, you may need to cook it even longer. For more information on grilling, click here.
- Smoking – Smoking is another way to free up your oven. You cook food indirectly and slowly over a drip pan in a covered grill or smoker. It can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to smoke a turkey. For more information on smoking, click here.
A grilled or smoked turkey should never be stuffed.
Advanced Cooking Methods
- Spatchcocking – Spatchcocking is a fancy term for cooking a whole turkey by removing the backbone and laying the bird out flat. This makes for quicker cooking, easier carving, and a more moist turkey. Start with a sturdy pair of kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the turkey’s backbone and remove it. Flip the turkey over and flatten it by breaking the breast bone. Brush your turkey with olive or canola oil and roast at 450 degrees for about 70 minutes, for a 12 pound turkey.
- Fried Turkey – A completely thawed, unstuffed turkey can be fried. There are some safety concerns when working with a large amount of oil, so take special care. You can find directions for frying, by clicking here.
So what will it be? How will you cook your turkey this year? Anyway you choose, be sure to use a food thermometer and proper food safety techniques. Click here for our Turkey Talk booklet with info from thawing all the way to using up leftovers. Enjoy!
Certified Nutrition Education Assistant